|The “wallflowers” are four women, two of whom are from America, all seeking British peer husbands. Secrets of a Summer Night featured the English Annabelle. This tale features American Lillian Bowman. Two more books to follow include winter and spring in the titles. It Happened One Autumn is the first Kleypas novel I have read and I wasn’t disappointed.
Lillian Bowman and her sister Daisy are almost embarrassed to be scouring the British realm for a husband. Neither assumes their quest will be easy. Their fortune is an enticement, but their matchmaking mother is somewhat of an embarrassment. Lillian’s behavior may also be a complicating factor. Lillian, you see, is a bit of a tomboy and rebellious too. She is intelligent and plans to use her wits. She has the gift of being able to distinguish smells, something that comes in handy since her father owns a soap making company and is in England seeking investors. However, he doesn’t allow her to use her talents in the business. She is intrigued when a perfumist offers her a scent that he swears will bring her true love.
The man she is least likely to marry is Marcus, Lord Westcliff. They have met previously and were like oil and water. In fact, Lillian is convinced he hates her and she finds him pompous and stoic. He disapproves of her antics. The last time they attended a house party together, the Earl discovered the wallflowers playing a game which sounds like baseball in their under drawers because their skirts were hampering their running.
Westcliff is having a month-long houseparty and he has invited the Bowmans in order to talk business with Lillian’s father. His mother, the Countess, is adamant that he find a British girl to marry in order to maintain the bloodlines. Marcus’ two sisters both married Americans and she is determined that Marcus will do his duty. Marcus is not particularly inclined to follow his mother’s wishes because she has not really been a good mother. But the last thing he expects is to fall for Lillian.
The sparks fly from the beginning when Marcus finds Lillian and her sister Daisy (another wallflower) playing the ball game with the stable boys. He joins the game and they have a great time. He holds her to show her how to hold a bat and the attraction begins. When sneaking back into the house, Marcus and Lillian share a kiss that knocks them both for a loop.
This tale is a character-driven story. Lillian must figure out how she can be so strongly attracted to Marcus when she thought she hated him. But the more she learns, the more she sees the gentler side of the man. Marcus fights his attraction and yet, is drawn to Lillian’s vitality and charm.
Secondary characters abound. Marcus’ sister Olivia and her husband, Annabelle and her husband Hunt, who is a friend of Marcus, and the other two wallflowers (Daisy and friend Evie) all play a role in helping the relationship bloom. Another friend of Marcus, Lord St. Vincent, and the Countess round out the cast and provide the antagonistic role.
I enjoyed the byplay between Lillian and Marcus. Both are strong willed, but their relationship is more of feeling out and exploring rather than strong hate and arguments that many authors use. Their sexual interactions are hot and add mightily to the sense that they are falling in love.
This tale comes close to a keeper. The issue of Lillian’s talent for smell is made a big deal of at the beginning, but really is never a factor. The final scene seems to be forced and ultimately sets up the next book rather than bringing this one to a dramatic closing.
Overall, It Happened One Autumn is worth the steep price that is assigned to the book. Lillian and Marcus are both likeable heroes and their romance is engaging and entertaining. Don’t miss it.